Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This post is the first in a series that I dreamed up gradually over the summer as I was preparing to move from one state to another, from one phase of my life to another.  I have moved many times in my adult life, but this move was different.  It came after a particularly difficult experience, which itself had followed on the heels of what for me were an exceptionally tough few years.  As I've written about before, this move--back to the state where I was born and raised, back to the city where I met my husband, back to the streets and shoreline of my soul--was the first move I've ever made that wasn't for school or a job or any other practical reason at all.  This move was made entirely for love.   

Jack Kerouac wrote in On the Road that "everybody goes home in October."  While technically I went home in August, I feel in my bones exactly what he meant.  As we head into the holiday season and, here in the northern hemisphere, the coldest, darkest months of the year, my own sense of family and history deepens.  I draw my circle closer for warmth and comfort in the face of shortening days.  Home and hearth and what they represent lie at the center of this circle.  This year, my sense of being at home in this city and in my own skin  has been strengthened by the choices I have made over the past few months.  The move itself was the biggest choice, but within that were many smaller decisions that I cherish.  

During the month leading up to the big move, as I sorted through our mountains of belongings, I questioned what items and memories mattered most to me, and I realized that I only wanted to keep things that told a story or that reminded me of a person or a time that I love.  Everything else--the impulse buys and the random vases and pots and bowls and unplayed board games and unloved sweaters and unused aperitif glasses--seemed extraneous and wasteful.      

I would never say that material things don't matter at all, for we live in the physical world.   But an edited home, a pared down existence is what I crave--one in which the pieces around me speak to the past and help me lead a better, more considered life in the present.  This is no easy task for a girl with a magpie's heart and eye, but as one of my design heroes, William Morris, once said, "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  Utility and beauty help to feed us, body and soul.  I feel this every time I glide my husband's babci's rolling pin over a pie crust or slide open the drawer of my father's roll-top desk.  These things are undeniably useful and they are beautiful in form as well as in what they mean to me.  They represent the legacy passed down to me by those who came before and helped me become who I am--and who I will be.

And so, I decided to start a series of posts about the objects and ideas, the people and memories that we treasure.  From now until mid-November, some of my blogging friends will be joining me on Wednesdays to talk about their own legacies.  I hope you'll join in the conversation.

I mentioned Babci's rolling pin and my father's desk, and there are a dozen or so other treasured objects I could write about in this series, but when I think of my own legacy--and a gift I would most want to pass on to my nieces and nephews and other family and friends--I think of my Memere's kitchen and of the foods she prepared for us there on the turquoise formica counters.  I think of her perfectly manicured fingers, their glittering rings flashing as she stirred a pot of fiddleheads or minced onions for liver pate.  I think of her laughter and of the stories she told as we gathered round her table.  And then there were her cookies and donuts and pies.  Whatever she put on the table on a Sunday was my favorite.  Memere died just a few months after my father in 1984, but we speak of her at most family gatherings still, and when I set a table for those I love, it is her table that I emulate, her skill, economy, grace, and care that I hope to achieve in each meal that I make.  After Memere passed away, my cousin Gary's wife, Pattie, typed up some of her best loved recipes for everyone in the family.  I treasure that little book, and so I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes with you.  I think Memere would get a kick out of knowing that a favorite Old Town, Maine, recipe is going global!  

Blueberry Crumb Cake

During the summer, when local blueberries are in season, I make this every couple of weeks.    The rest of the year I keep some frozen berries on hand so I can whip this beauty up whenever a craving hits (which is often, especially in the fall).  It is probably the number one favorite cake in my family.  We all bake it, adding our own touches and twists, and everyone's is delicious.  I've tried making this with other kinds of berries as well.  Blueberries are still my favorite for this, but a half blueberry, half raspberry blend is lovely, too.  

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~Grease a 9x12" pan

~In a large bowl mix together:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (my addition--and purely optional)

~Set aside 1/2-3/4 cup for crumb topping (I like extra crumbs!).

~In a measuring cup, measure out 1/2 cup milk.  
~Add 1 teaspoon of plain vinegar or lemon juice to the milk to sour it.
~Stir 1/2 teaspoon baking soda into the soured milk.

~In another bowl beat
2 large eggs

~To the eggs add the milk mixture, plus
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

~Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and combine.

~Toss 2 cups of blueberries, fresh or frozen, with 1/2 cup flour.

~Fold the blueberries into the batter. 

~Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the reserved topping.

~Bake for about 40 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.  While I think it is most delicious on the day it's baked, in our family, no one objects to eating leftover cake the next morning along with scrambled eggs and coffee.

Check back in next Wednesday, September 29th, for a Legacy post from a blogger whose life and art and writing are endless sources of inspiration.


  1. Great post Gigi! Love the term "edited home", and William Morris quote :) My therapy is sometimes purging those things that don't make the legacy cut. Look forward to the series. :)

  2. What a wonderful idea! :) I look forward to the other installments in this Legacy series. And you are absolutely correct...as the years pass by I am discovering that an edited home is what I crave. I wish to surround myself with the things that mean so much to me and do away with the things that do not. The dust gatherers must go! I want to spend the rest of my days not only making memories, but sharing old ones with those I love.

  3. What a beautiful post, Gigi! I just love it! I have moved SO MANY TIMES and have always only kept objects that held happy memories for me and that are useful. As I get older, I edit my belongings more and more. I really look forward to this series! Have a beautiful week, lovely Gigi! xxoo :)

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and your cherished recipe. I can't wait to have an occasion to try it out!

  5. Oh, a post that is every bit as wonderful as I knew it would be, Gigi. As I am sure you know, you speak directly to my heart when you talk about the legacy of your Grandmother.
    And I admit to having given up on the idea of a paired down existence until the children are all grown and flown the nest and myself and Jay living in a houseboat in Amsterdam, or a treehouse in West Cork, or a cave in the south of Spain....

    Looking forward to reading more Legacy posts! C x

  6. I just found you. Your words are so beautiful. As though you're weaving the stories through your fingers, and I visualize them ever so clearly. The nostalgic tone was very meaningful. Your soul shines through.

  7. I love the idea of posting about the legacy of your treasures. And your pictures are amazing! They show that aura of love and value--beautiful! My problem is that I can never pare down--everything tells me a story--and I want to hang on to them all! Mark Brunetz advises that we write down the story of each object as a way to determine its value. Then we can let go of things--or we will realize the true value and give it the honor it deserves. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more entries--and I think I have ideas for future posts of my own!

  8. Lovely, inspired beginnings for this new series, Gigi! That Wm. Morris quote is one of m favorites, and one I keep in mind. Your term "edited home" is something my Dear Husband & I have been doing for some time now, as we pare things down to what is really essential, to live a more minimal, simple life, yet abundance--more with less. Thank you for your store to get this started. And for the comforting recipe. We are taking a trip this weekend for some days, which I will post about tomorrow. So I'll be away for a few, but hope to catch your next Legacy post next week when back. Happy Days, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

  9. Wow, this speaks to me so loudly as I sit in a house with a "for sale" sign on the front lawn making mental lists of what goes out of here the minute we have a deal. Downsizing is the new black ;-)

  10. I am so excited about this series. I love the idea and I love the heart behind it. You make me think about what matters to me and what I fill my home with. I love that.

  11. I am going to love this series so much Gigi! I keep saying that I am at a time in my life where I want to pare down rather than continue to acquire...but I have ended up by acquiring more...Not bought things but things that were once my mother's, my mother-in-law's, my sister's, my children's, in other words things with stories. Someday I may try to tell some of these stories...if only I could write like you):


  12. Dearest Gigi ~

    I've got quite the lump in my throat after reading this...every word hit home to my heart!

    I'll look forward to making this Blueberry Crumble Cake (a favorite indulgence of my McDreamy), and when I do bake it (and enjoy every single morsel), I will think of you and your beloved Memere and hold my cup of warm tea high as I toast your beautiful legacy and your love for all things meaningful and pure from within.


    P.S. Of course, you set the BAR really HIGH on this series! (wink wink)

  13. As I try and simplify my life, I will think on your words...'keep things that told a story or that reminded me of a person or a time that I love. Everything else--the impulse buys...seemed extraneous and wasteful.'...thank you, a very timely and heartfelt post

  14. Gigi, this post makes all sorts of thoughts bubble up in me. I wonder if you have/had any ambivalence about returning "home," or if Maine has only positive associations for you.
    I only go "home" once a year, but the thing I enjoy most is my mother's cooking. I think that your choice of a rolling pin (as illustration) was very apt; for me, and so many others I'm sure, home is where the kitchen table is!

  15. As I read your words, I couldn't stop thinking about the closet in the hall that is starting to overflow. I am a simplist..I hate clutter...but that closet is a gathering spot for all things not seen...I think it is time to pare down.

    You speak so beautifully of legacy, and what that means to you. Who those precious souls are that mean so much to you. I am so glad you moved for love....that you were able to find your home again. I had to leave my hometown to find my real home...and I will never look back. I too, moved for love...most especially love for myself and my own deep- rooted yearnings.

  16. once again, your words take me right to the place where you were ...
    i was right there beside you, mesmerized by your memere's glittering rings ... i can smell the onions ... i can feel the warmth, security and love sitting round the table ... and i can truly imagine that you serve all those delicious bits and more at your table ~ carrying on her legacy ... mmmmm ... xo

    and you know, i just happen to have a bag of blueberries that i froze this past summer with the hopes of making something special with them ...
    yup! i am going to try your memere's blueberry crumb cake and take it to our community pot luck in a couple of weeks ... i will think of her, i will think of you ... and i will share your legacy ... : )

    with warmth and love,


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